A study carried out by Australian researchers suggests that DMARD (disease-modifying antirheumatic drug) therapy can be supplemented with fish oil to deliver additional benefits for newly diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients. According to the report published in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, high doses of fish oil reduce the therapy failure rate and improve the chances of remission as well as speeding it up.
The study subjects were divided into two groups, with the first group given a daily dose of 5.5g of omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, while the second group received a lower dose of 0.4g. The triple DMARD therapy consisted of methotrexate (MTX), sulphasalazine and hydroxychloroquine. The University of Adelaide team found that the remission rate was significantly higher in the patient group receiving large doses of fish oil, as only about 10% of this group failed to go into remission. In contrast, the proportion of remission failure was 32% in the low-dose group. Furthermore, remission occurred much faster in the group prescribed high doses.
However, the report cautions that fish oil should not be used as a substitute for DMARD therapy. The best results seem to be achieved by adding three or four grams of fish oil daily to the treatment regimen. The researchers suggest that one of the major benefits of fish oil could be its ability to reduce the need for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These drugs can sometimes result in cardiovascular and gastrointestinal side effects. The report also notes that consumption of fish oil would not by itself deliver the benefits observed in this study.